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January 30, 2007


Jason in SA

Easily my favorite of High Court justice. His dissent in the 2003 affirmative action case, Grutter v. Bollinger, from Michigan, is absolutely compelling.

Here, he quotes Frederick Douglass:

Frederick Douglass, speaking to a group of abolitionists almost 140 years ago, delivered a message lost on today's majority:

"[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us... . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! ... And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! ... [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury." What the Black Man Wants: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 January 1865, reprinted in 4 The Frederick Douglass Papers 59, 68 (J. Blassingame & J. McKivigan eds. 1991) (emphasis in original).

Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators. Because I wish to see all students succeed whatever their color, I share, in some respect, the sympathies of those who sponsor the type of discrimination advanced by the University of Michigan Law School (Law School). The Constitution does not, however, tolerate institutional devotion to the status quo in admissions policies when such devotion ripens into racial discrimination. Nor does the Constitution countenance the unprecedented deference the Court gives to the Law School, an approach inconsistent with the very concept of "strict scrutiny."

Read the whole thing here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=02-241.

Mike Petrik

I have long argued that Justice Thomas has been grossly "misunderestimated." This new development gives me some useful ammo, but in the end it will not convince those who obtain a certain measure of self-satisfaction from their contempt for this man.


Speaking of Justices, here's an audio slideshow breakdown on Samuel Alito from the Washington Post:


Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. decided to study constitutional law because he was distressed over the liberal activism practiced under Chief Justice Earl Warren's leadership. The young conservative's distaste judicial activism would frame his career as a jurist.


It appears the link I provided above was tossed.

Here it is again:



Okay, let's try that a final time:



I also like Clarence Thomas...snd Scalia...and Roberts...and Alito




Justice Thomas is the first justice I remember being confirmed. I think it's amazing that he is not more well know mostly because he keeps to himself and doesn't go off spouting his legal onions every chance he gets. To me this makes him the most unbiased judge. You really don't know where he stands on an issue until you read his opinions. This is how it should be!


Mike Petrik, to provide you some solice, I am one of the many who often think little of Justice Thomas. I will admit that this article has, if not changed, at least reopened my thoughts about the man.

On another note, I am always curious as to what justifies an annulment. Thomas received his after 13 years of marriage that resulted in the birth of a child. He was married, presumably outside the Catholic Church, from 1971 - 1984. He then divorced and remarried in 1987, still presumably outside the Catholic Church. He then received an annulment from the Diocese of Arlington before returning to the Catholic faith in the mid-1990's. On what grounds did his first marriage become null? If it was because it was administered outside the Church, why was the second marriage sacramental?

But this may drag the conversation in an unintended direction, so no one need answer me.


I'll read the article and comments later when I have time but want to rush my opinion into print (well if Chesterton could do it....)(Yes, Im no chesterton)

Saw a CNN report on Muslim taxidrivers in the midwest refusing to carry passengers with Alcohol in the cab. So what's the diff between that and not wanting to pay union dues due to abortion (other than the muslims are wrong and we are right)?



Slowboy, uh...wrong post? (Guess that's what happens when you rush).

"(well if Chesterton could do it...)" Chesterton might reply: "Don't try this at home; it's not as easy as it looks."

Lee Darnell

I don't think that Thomas is stupid, like some folks seem to assume - simply because the man is African American. I simply think he is a wrong-headed womanizer - Yes, I actually do believe Anita Hill. Furthermore I think that text has life over time. Just as I read the bible differently now than when I read it as a child, and just as the pope can decide new docterine using the same catechism so too can the constitution be read differently in the new light of time for the maturity of the nation as we grow as a people. As we grow as a people we have conversations that we have never had before, about race, gender, sexuality and the rights of people to function in a society. In addition, Science wasn't as developed in the time of the constitution. Our laws need to take account of the emerging social conversations, scientific discoveries so that it can take account of the new consensus in the nation.


"...just as the pope can decide new docterine(sic)...

Bad catechesis on display.

"Yes, I actually do believe Anita Hill."

Have I got a bridge to sell you!

Steve Cavanaugh

Horatio asked:
On another note, I am always curious as to what justifies an annulment. Thomas received his after 13 years of marriage that resulted in the birth of a child. He was married, presumably outside the Catholic Church, from 1971 - 1984. He then divorced and remarried in 1987, still presumably outside the Catholic Church. He then received an annulment from the Diocese of Arlington before returning to the Catholic faith in the mid-1990's. On what grounds did his first marriage become null? If it was because it was administered outside the Church, why was the second marriage sacramental?

Since any canonical investigations of Justice Thomas' marriage are not public, these questions cannot be answered definitively, but here are some hypothetical answers.

First, the validity of a marriage has nothing to do with whether children are born or not. After all, a man and woman can have a child without any marriage taking place. I'm told it happens rather frequently these days.

Secondly, marriages don't become null; they are valid or null from the get-go. Marriages are presumed valid until evidence to the contrary is provided, just as a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presumption is not a factual finding; after all, a murderer or thief is guilty (legally) from the moment the act is committed (and morally, from the moment he consents to the temptation). Criminal trials are held to determine the guilt of the accused by ascertaining the facts of the case. Canonical trials, in a similar way, are held to determine the facts of a marriage case: is it valid or null? If no valid marriage is found, then a declaration of nullity is made.

If Thomas were Catholic at the time of his first marriage and said marriage was neither performed according to the Catholic form of marriage nor with his bishop's dispensation from the Catholic form (in other words, he failed to follow the marriage laws of the Church) then that marriage would not be considered valid. Therefore, a second marriage would be considered on its own merits, quite apart from any reference to a previous (civil) marriage.

The second marriage, if also contracted outside the Church, would not be considered valid. However, a couple whose marriage is not valid because of a defect of form can have that marriage convalidated. Basically, they get married in the Church. (Thus giving the husband two anniversaries to remember.) As to whether the marriage is considered sacramental, that is also not the same as being valid. My own marriage is valid, but because my wife is not baptized, it is not sacramental (well, it's not a sacrament; it may well be a sacramental of sorts ; )

Was this the case with Justice Thomas? I don't know; but that's how it could have been, and if Horatio has stated the facts correctly within his question, then I would presume that this is pretty much what happened.


Chesterton might reply: "Don't try this at home; it's not as easy as it looks."

Uh,oh....wrong thread alltogher. Slow down, deep breath....oh, well.

I will boast I've shaken the man's hand. I will admit I known absolutely nothing about law.


"...the constitution can be read differently in the new light of time for the maturity of the nation as we grow as a people."

The justices do not have the authority to do that. "We, the people" have that authority. It's called the amendment process. We have in this country (or, atleast, are supposed to have) "government of the people, by the people, for the people", not a government of the justices, by the justices, for the justices.

Unlike some bishops who are slow to believe their accusers when confronted with abuse, I actually do believe Anita Hll. This stains him as well as our the Catholic higherachy. When a noted survey says that 85 percent of the churches reported embezzlement, and not a lick of it is known to the public, yes, I will doubt the validity of the "good word" of authority. The same is true for "Justice" Thomas. Any man who sits with that dirty of a conscience on that high of a pedistal is not to be trusted. As a survivor of rape, I will believe her before I would believe him. The smear camapign by his handlers against her was brutal and wholly unbecoming of anyone who claims to be Catholic. Furthermore, as a Catholic, his unbending support for the Death Penalty rats him out as a fraud and a heretic.


Do you have evidence to support *any* of your allegations? Unsupported allegations are merely calumny. Last time I checked, that was a rather serious sin.


If support for capital punishment makes one a heretic, then God is an archeretic; in the O.T., He *commanded* capital punishment for certain sins.


"...that dirty of a conscience..." I'm in awe of folks who have the ability to read others' souls.


"...a noted survey says that 85 percent of the churches reported embezzlement, and not a lick of it is known to the public..."

A *noted* survey that is unknown? Please make up your mind.


Spring Training starts next week; which team will you be pitching batting practice for?

Lee Darnell

The nature of embezzlement is that it is hidden from the public, the nature of sexual harassment is the shaming of the harassed by those in power

This taken from a quote on Rush Limbaugh's former TV program compares the myth of a Limbaugh statement about Clarence Thomas to the reality. He is no respector of women. He is a creep. Yet, respected people at the height of their respect tarred her reputation to get him into an office that requires a conscience he did not possess. If he had one he would have owned up to the charade. He has not. He is a fraud.


LIMBAUGH: "Anita Hill followed Clarence Thomas everywhere. Wherever he went, she wanted to be right by his side, she wanted to work with him, she wanted to continue to date him.... There were no other accusers who came forth after Anita Hill did and said, 'Yeah, Clarence Thomas, he harassed me, too.' There was none of that." (TV show, 5/4/94)

REALITY: Hill could not have continued to date Thomas, since they never dated. Two other women, Sukari Hardnett and Angela Wright, came forth in the Thomas case with similar charges.


Lee: You (or rather Mrs. Linkletter) never even attempted to answer the question of WHY Hill would follow Thomas from job to job. Is this the only evidence you have to try to damage this man's reputation?

Pretty pathetic attempt, if you ask me. Pretty flimsy evidence to base an attack upon anyone, particularly one who has done so much to champion the cause of justice and the Culture of Life in America.

Lee Darnell

So if someone defends some cause you like - then the ends justfy the means - or the activities that take place recreationally along with those needed to get the means accomplished. Thank you for justifying Bill Clinton for every liberal. I now have a clear mind about my voting record. But meh, Bill Clinton never worked to distroy the civil rights record of the United States while in power. So actually I think I'm up a couple of points. Thanks for the penance, Padre.


Wrong. You've totally misunderstood my point. You've chosen to believe the man guilty based on almost nothing. In a court of law, there is such a thing as a character witness, whose testimony can help determine if the crime of which the defendant is accused would actually be something that his history would characterize him as having the capability of commision. In layman's terms, it answers the question, "Is it in character for this man to have done this or not?"

In the case of Justice Thomas, the vast bulk of the evidence points to the fact that it is simply NOT in his character to have done this.

So, tell us the truth, Lee: why do you REALLY hate the man?

Lee Darnell

It is not so much that those people ( Hill and others) were character witnesses, as much as they were factual witnesses about things that actually happened. The fact that they got swept under the rug to allow him to ascend to the bench while Bill Clinton was tarred and feathered some years later,but ultimatly acquitted is a stain on the justice system. People who reach that height of power should be above reproach and be beyond repute. He was neither, and yet he allowed his fans and followers to slander his accusers in the court of public opinion to assure his rise to power. All of this de-legitimizes his authority as a member of the court.

While Bill Clinton may be no saint, the moral relativism on the right with regards to Thomas in comparison to Clinton is baffling. One is a high court member, while another is strung out for impeachment for lying about consensual sexual contact.

On the topic of Justice Thomas -
I do not hate the man - to do that would mean that I would have to know him and have a personal vendetta against him. I do not know him, and do not have a personal vendetta against him. Rather, I find his ascendency to power rather suspect and clouded with impropriety that stains his reputation and therefore his legal arguements given that these questions have never been answered.

Just as I would not want a priest with a suspected history of child abuse rising to any level of authority until those questions were answered and his culpability was ruled out without a shadow of a doubt, so too do I want the same for our justice system. We should not have persons of suspect integrity on the bench in the any court in the land. It does a dishonor to the notion of justice on the bench if allegations against Justices are not treated with the due respect of the law no matter the political expediency of the situation.

David Brock of Media Matters for America (he coined the phrase "a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty" in an effort to smear Ms. Hill) has noted that he went after Anita Hill to please the rightwing in a coordinated media campaign. I'm sorry you believed him. Too often we believe the truth that most suits us because the ugliness of reality is too much to bear. Take off your dark glasses, the sunlight of reality investigated beyond the spindoctored propaganda won't hurt your eyes, I promise you.

Then again - in the modern conservative political era we don't get justice, we get appointed, less than qualified yes men in the tradition of Elaine Chao and Don Rumsfeld. While you cannot say that he is responsable directly for destroying organized labor (elaine Chao)or starting the Iraq War (Rumsfeld) on some level he was put there to do a (partisan) job and make the president appear not to hate black people.

Me, I'm not much for pop singers, but I happen to put more stock in the words of Kanye West than anything Bush has said in the last 8 years.


"Too often we believe the truth that most suits us..."



Lee: You completely misunderstand. My comment regarding character witness had NOTHING to do with Anita Hill. Please reread what I wrote. Thomas had plenty of credible character witnesses who testified that the types of accusations being made were simply not actions of which the man would be capable. Alternatively, anyone ... ANYONE ... who looked at the "evidence" presented by Hill et al, can see that she's just not credible.

Bill Clinton isn't a part of this discussion so I don't know why you keep bringing him up. However, since you insist ... this man was proved to have LIED UNDER OATH. There is hard evidence that he did so and HE ADMITTED that he'd done so. Whether consensual or not is not the issue. The issue is guilt or innocence.

I happen to believe (based on the evidence) that Thomas is innocent of the charges hurled at him.

I also KNOW (since the guy admitted it) that Clinton is guilty of the charged hurled at him.

I'll ask a similar question to that I've already put out there: Why do you believe Hill is credible, given her job history etc., and disbelieve the vast number of character witnesses who stepped forth to defend Thomas?

Also note that I have approached you in as diplomatic a manner as I could muster, leaving out certain sentences like your own

--"Take off your dark glasses, the sunlight of reality investigated beyond the spindoctored propaganda won't hurt your eyes, I promise you."

and this little gem about Rumsfeld's job being to,

--"make the president appear not to hate black people."

Seriously, you need to stick to the topic. To review, the topic is Justice Thomas. This isn't about Bush. Nor Rumsfeld. Nor Clinton. Nor the "vast rightwing conspiracy." Check your baggage at the door for a bit and discuss Justice Thomas's guilt or innocence.

You might be pleasantly surprised.

Lee Darnell

It's not about a vast right wing conspiracy - it's more about Thomas fitting in with a pattern of people who are not fit to govern, yet are given positions of government dispite their moral culpability. If you cannot see the pattern I am sorry. It only proves my point that you've drank the Kool-Aid.

I'm sorry if you think that the executive branch, and the judicial branch should both be subject to political hackery and in the case of Thomas sexual improprieties. Clinton may have settled, but Thomas never did.


Speaking of drinking the Kool-Aid...

Tim J.

Call me crazy, but just I don't think bought-and-paid-for testimony of a disgruntled former staffer is that reliable. But that's just me.

That whole episode was evidence of how low the Dems were willing to stoop to keep conservatives off the court. Thomas called their bluff. Seems when it fit their purposes, lynching an innocent black man was something they could stomach well enough.

Of course, in their eyes he was guilty of selling out to the Enemy, which is worse than making off-color remarks about porn and cans of coke, and that's the crime for which he was being punished... being a black conservative.

David B.

Who let the trolls out?

Lee Darnell

I actually have no problem with a principled conservative. Principled conservatives usually end up being moderate, as do principled liberals. I don't think that we should be ruled by a political oligarchy, rather I think that we should have a fair judicial system, a fair legislative system and a fair executive branch where all three are governed by checks and balances and all three are composed of members who are at all times held to account for their actions.

We do not have that right now. We have a rubber stamp for the whims of the executive branch. We have a consolidation of powers under a docterine of "executive war powers", which Thomas and Scalia both hold dear, but is antithetical to our constitution which clearly holds that all three branches are co-equal.

We have been sold a bill of goods about Weapons of Mass Distruction, we have been sold a bill of goods about the threat of "islamic fascism". What we should be on the lookout for is totalitarianism within our own government in the form of such consolidation of power as I have spoken about.

It's funny that Bush is mad about Venesuela's leader consolidating power, when he himself consolidates power at a whim. While he may not have formed government monopolies, he has allowed the formation of commercial monopolies - the reconstitution of the Bell Monopolies for example, and by virtue of his lack of support for alternative technologies - Oil monopolies as well.

We are at the whim of corp. mergers in america. Blessed are those with health care, blessed are those with a nest egg. Clarence Thomas has abdicated his authority to reign in the government which it is his duty to act as a check upon as a member of the court. In fear of not being a "judicial activist" he has shown "judicial restraint" to the point of allowing the powerful of the marketplace to act for him and bring ruin upon this great nation.


Lee: When you're ready to stop doing the topic dance and discuss one thing at a time, let me know.

Until then, I'll leave you with this: a truly "principled conversative" or "principled liberal" would be unable to turn moderate. Too many principles get in the way of shifting into the land of milquetoast.

Lee Darnell

My ideas are complex. Yet, I do not concede that principled people will necessarily be unable to find commonground. Too often what passes for principles in America is actually extremism. And the common-sense people who occupy the middle ground are left being called "milquetoast" by those who can only see victory in terms of arguements won, and not in terms of the greater good. Demegogues and Polemecists will always tell you two plus two equals five just to argue, but people in the middle will be left wondering what the point of the arguement was. At the beginning of my making my points against Thomas I knew what they were, The following is a short summation:

1) His rise to power raised questions about his moral leadership.
2) He was given a moral pass by conservative leaders who spent time lambasting others on the left for less agregious crimes.
3) He fits into a pattern of being a less-than leader, put in place not so much for his leadership capacities but instead for his ability to fulfill an ideological (the old Roe v. Wade fear of the right).
4) His role on the court is a denial of the fundimental role of the constitutional judge - by serving as a rubberstamp for the increasing consolidation executive powers. That he futher does not realize his role in this renders him unqalified. He has stripped us of our rights to Habius corpus. Thanks Clarence!
5) As an opponent of Roe V. Wade but a supporter of the death penalty he is an inconsistant, cafeteria catholic. Yet, no one seems to call him on this fact.


Lee: The the contrary, it is only what you would call "extremists" who would insist upon the 2+2=4 equation. For the milquetoast wafflers in the "middle," 2+2 might equal 4 ... maybe 3 ... it depends.

1: Those questions (attacks) were answered by credible character witnesses.
2: He was found "not guilty" in the court of public opinion and Senate hearings.
3: The original article cited by Akin speaks quite strongly against this one.
4: This statement has no stated foundation, and therefore needs no specific rebuttal.
5: This statement shows a fundamental (and seemingly willful, since it was previously rebutted quite clearly) misunderstanding of Catholic moral theology. I submit to you this statement from our current Pope in the document "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles":

"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

In other words, no one is giving anyone a "pass" on this. It is acceptable to have a different opinion on capital punishment. Otherwise, we'd almost have to posthumously excommunicate practically ALL of the Church Fathers, who also advocated the death penalty.

Lee Darnell

I love how Thou Shalt not Kill doesn't apply to the sometimes not actually guilty, and, even to the guilty. I love how quickly people step into the cafeteria for criminals when it would be so much more morally simple to reform our justice system (which Thomas could help with as a member of the Court) by reforming mandatory minimum drug laws which often hit upon those who are of a certain race ( see the discrepency of sentencing between crack users and those who use cocaine).

There are enough beds in jails to negate useage of the vengeful death penalty. If the Cafeteria were truly closed then there would be no exceptions to the docterine of life. Not for the fetus, not for feeble, not for the criminal.

I mean, if someone is going to claim catholicism at least be pure about it. Don't pick and choose which morality suits you. Unjustified and unchecked war powers, I don't see catholicism in that (PJPII surely didn't).He's more a party-politician in the robes of a judge than a fine representative of the Catholic faith who uses his faith to inform his positions. I see yourself buying wiggle room right and left to convince yourself that you've got a justice on your hands that is one of your guys when in fact I think we've all got an Injustice on our hands that threatens democracy as we know it (and he's not the only one.). When Bishops speak of excommunicating people I cannot see how they do not put him on the list.

Oh yeah, I forgot, he doesn't support abortion, and to the bishops that's really the only issue that matters.


Lee: Did you even READ the statement from Ratzinger? It's not a cafeteria attitude to accept the death penalty. No matter how often you repeat it, the Church has spoken quite clearly on this.

Since you seem Hell-bent on repeating yourself, I'll repeat the relevant portion of the current Pope's statement: "There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

You need to do a little soul-searching on this, it seems. How on earth you can equate the lives innocent unborn children with murderers is beyond me. What's more, this equation of yours is beyond the scope of even the most anti-death penalty statements from Rome. This is, has always been, and will always be an area of prudential judgment. It simply does not rise to the level of abortion.

More succintly, abortion is intrinsically evil--always wrong. The death penalty might SOMETIMES be wrong but not always, and therefore, is not intrinsically so.

It's very clear.


In the O.T., God *commanded* the death penalty for some crimes.

God, the Cafeteria Catholic!

Lee Darnell

About the catholic position on the death penality. I think you are seriously mistaken in the fact that there can be any exception to the seamless garement of life .
This is an official church document.


I'll stick with my fellow Cafeteria Catholic: God! You stick with whomever you want.


Lee: You are either deceived yourself or you are intentionally hiding the truth.

The URL you posted is not an official statement by any means. It is a gathering of various quotes (out of context) from, among others the USCCB and, yes the Pope John Paul II by Education for Justice, a project of Center of Concern. This organization has neither the competance nor the power to over-ride the Pope.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, who is opposed to implimentation of capital punishment, stated:

"If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millennia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture (notably in Genesis 9:5-6 and Romans 13:1-4). I doubt whether the tradition is reversible at all, but even if it were, the reversal could hardly be accomplished by an incidental section in a long encyclical [i.e. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae] focused primarily on the defense of innocent human life. If the Pope were contradicting the tradition, one could legitimately question whether his statement outweighed the established teaching of so many past centuries." (National Catholic Register March 24-31, 2002, reprinted here: http://www.santegidio.org/pdm/news2002/10_04_02.htm )

Lee, even Dulles, an opponent of capital punishment recognizes that traditional Church teaching in support of it cannot be overturned by so weighty a document as a papal encyclical. And you ask me to believe that, because of some two-page flyer from the Center of Concern, all Catholics who support the death penalty are heretics?

Gonna have to do better than that. A lot better.

In other words, you can't over-ride tradition like this. Nor can you rightly declare heretical anyone who does not oppose all implimentation of the death penalty. Tradition (the official teaching of the Magisterium) and the bulk of both Scripture stand opposed to you. You have neither the competance nor the right.

If you want to find official Church documents, I suggest you go to the Vatican's official website www.vatican.va .


Lee: You really should read all of Dulles commentary on Justice Scalia's statements on the death penalty. It puts into perspective a great number of issues with the death penalty.

Keep in mind that Dulles--again, an opponent of the death penalty--states that Justice Scalia--a supporter of the death penalty--is "rightly regarded as one of the outstanding legal experts of the nation and an exemplary Catholic." (emphasis mine)

I actually tend to agree a bit with the Cardinal's fifth and sixth reasons to oppose the death penalty (they are worth considering, even though I do still disagree with his conclusions). But it's also interesting to note that, even while he's opposing the death penalty, he states:

Justice Scalia raises the question whether a judge who accepts current papal teaching could in good conscience hear cases involving the death penalty. If the Pope (as I believe) allows for capital punishment in some rare cases, to be determined by prudential considerations, his position is not contrary to the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and raises no problems.

Even a judge who believed that capital punishment should never be used in our country today, and that such was the expressed belief of the Pope, might still affirm the death penalty in certain cases on the ground that, although the law was bad, the decision was nevertheless constitutional, legally correct, and not manifestly opposed to the moral law. One can legitimately implement a law that one regards as prudentially wrong. Capital punishment, after all, is legal in the United States, and is not murder.


One more and then I'm done with this, since I'm pretty sure I've overstayed my welcome as is.

An edit: Scalia would not be happy that I said he is a "supporter of the death penalty."

From his letter: "I do no such thing. I support the proposition that it is not sinful for a Catholic to support it, and indeed to participate in its imposition. Whether it should be imposed - whether such severe retribution is desirable - is a question I do not address."

Cardinal Dulles, as stated above, agrees.



Very nicely said. You most definitely have not overstayed your welcome. I have been lurking (because you have said it much better than I could have) and very much enjoyed your comments to Lee Darnell.

Take care and God bless,


Thanks, Inocencio. It's an issue I've had to wrestle with given the fact that the recent papal statements at first seem to do what Lee seems to believe they do, which is overturn Tradition. It took me a while to realize what Cardinal Dulles expresses because no one explained it to me. This issue, rightly understood, could actually do much to disarm much of protestant opposition to the Papacy, given that many protestants I know believe that Catholics think that the Pope can "change God." Apparently, some Catholics do, as well.

Lee Darnell

It is not so much that I believe any one figure changes God rather I believe that the implications of state ordered killing are far-reaching and dangerous if the church is to be on the side of democracy and freedom. Who is to say who is guilty and who is not so much that they should die as criminals in an age when the Innocence Project has worked tirelessly and with a great deal of positve result to overturn Death Sentences.


Lee: That's a question we can debate case-by-case or however else ... but, my point is that you called Justice Thomas heretical over this when he is clearly not.

Care to take it back now?


Again, I'm probably engaging in overkill here, but this article just found its way to my email box:

An excerpt:
Abandoning the principle of the legitimacy of the death penalty and its conformity with natural law and Revelation paves the way to accepting principles condemned by the same natural and divine law: the use of condoms, justification of homosexual practices, euthanasia, and so on.

In this regard, Cardinal Dulles warns:

Arguments from the progress of ethical consciousness have been used to promote a number of alleged human rights that the Catholic Church consistently rejects in the name of Scripture and tradition. The magisterium appeals to these authorities as grounds for repudiating divorce, abortion, homosexual relations, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. If the Church feels herself bound by Scripture and tradition in these other areas, it seems inconsistent for Catholics to proclaim a ‘moral revolution’ on the issue of capital punishment.

Once again, Dulles doesn't like the death penalty and yet ....

So, as I said, Justice Thomas isn't a heretic for upholding the death penalty.

Lee Darnell

Wow....at the risk of being struck down as a heretic, I think the logic of Dulles needs a check up or two. If Euthinasia is immoral, the taking of ones life before it is truly dead, then should not the killing of a person by means of the death penalty also be immoral? It seems like there is a tear in the seamless garment of life there, or perhaps the good Cardinal is playing God by persuming that the sick are worth more to God than the criminal, when both can be given the clemency of penance, and furthermore, the death penalty removes the chances for the criminal to either right his or her wrongs in this life, or be proven innocent, which has happened in a number of cases. How it could not be immoral is beyond me. It seems like the garment of life needs some stitching at the hem, perhaps with the golden thread of logic.


Lee: As stated, Dulles is on YOUR side of the death penalty argument ... in practice.

IN PRINCIPLE, which is what we're discussing, there is nothing wrong with capital punishment. So, therefore, BACK TO THE ORIGINAL TOPIC, Justice Thomas cannot be labelled heretical as you did earlier.

As to chances for repentance, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, nothing focuses the mind like an imminent hanging. The point being that their are countless death row inmates who converted precisely BECAUSE their deaths lay obviously before them. Am I saying that they wouldn't have converted if they'd not faced the death sentence? Not necessarily. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't believe that being forced to face their mortality got them to think about things like salvation, right vs. wrong or their eternal destination. I wonder if Jeffrey Dahmer (sentenced to life in a state without the death penalty) was able to face up to such things before he departed this world at the tip of a fellow inmate's shiv.

As for this seamless garment idea, it's very simple. Some people are innocent (the unborn, the aged, the infirm, the merely "unwanted") and deserving of continued life, and others have brought their own doom upon themselves through their crimes. It has nothing to do with the "worth" of a person. It is simply a matter of consequences.

Bottom line is the same as Bill912's ... God ordered the death penalty for certain crimes. St. Paul upholds that this penalty should still exist after Christ Sacrifice. Countless popes, saints, and fathers of the Church have done likewise. Christ Himself, both before Pontius Pilate and as He bled beside St. Dismas did not deny the validity of this punishment. To Pilate, He simply states that he would have no such power (over His life or death) if it were not GRANTED to him from Above. And don't forget that Dismas admits that he and his companion deserve the death penalty. Rather than "correcting" him on this, Christ simply affirms that Dismas join will Him in Paradise.

Lee, I never called you a heretic (remember, you were the one tossing that moniker about). But you really need to examine this more deeply before you demonize Justice Thomas on this basis.

Please consider retracting your statements on the man.

Tim J.

"How it could not be immoral is beyond me."

Because not all killing of humans is immoral.

The Bible clearly teaches, and the Church affirms, that killing in self-defense, for instance, is justifiable. So MURDER - which is unjustified killing - is prohibited absolutely, where killing in self defense is not.

Not that hard to understand, really.

The Catechism uses self-defense language to clarify its teaching of when (if ever) the death penalty should be allowed, but it makes very plain that this is an option belonging to the state, if the state feels that a murderous criminal can't be dealt with in any other way.

Read the Catechism.

Now, JPII was arguing - and many others with him - that because we are a wealthy and advanced society with a robust criminal justice system, we need NEVER USE the death penalty, even though we may have the right to do so. For the reasons you mentioned (opportunity for repentence, possibility of wrongful conviction) many Catholics make a case against the death penalty in all cases.

But that is a prudential judgement, and not a matter of official doctrine. There are legitimate arguments that can be made to support the use of the death penalty in particular cases where the crime is especially grievous, or where the criminal remains a danger. This includes the fact that some convicted murderers GO RIGHT ON murdering in prison! They attack prison personnel and other prisoners, seriously injuring or killing them. This is well attested. Unless you count the lives of prison personnel or other prisoners as less worthy of protection from the state than the lives of other citizens, you will need to include this into your reasoning.

The only alternatives for such habitually violent offenders would be to: A) Keep them drugged, or B) Keep them locked up in solitary confinement 24/7. Both of these methods are currently used, but there is a legitimate question whether these treatments are at bottom any more humane than the death penalty. Given that most of these prisoners are unstable to begin with, they WILL go crazy in solitary, if they are not already. People are not meant to be locked in a cell with minimal human contact ("slide the tray through the slot, and stand against the back wall with your hands over your head")for years on end. It sounds like hell.

There are legitimate arguments against the use of the death penalty, but the "seamless garment" falls flat going out the gate, as it does with most other issues where people are trying to give equal weight to issues that are in no way equal. "Similar" is not "the same".


"Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a *grave duty* (emphasis mine) for someone responsible for another's life, the common good of the family or of the state." CCC #2265

Lee Darnell

You know... I've done some thinking, and some praying, and I think I am going to lay down my comments at this point in the discussion. I have honestly enjoyed the back and forth discourse that we have had here. It is good to here the variety of perspectives that are offered, but I think we can all agree that batting around the teather ball after a while becomes pointless if there is no real matchpoint. While I do not expect you to see my point or even understand it's logic. It has been good to see yours and begin to understand that line of thinking in a more fully realized form even as I might disagree with it. Thank you for the discussion.

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